Bond Hearing Set for Murder Case of Illinois Teen

A Morehouse man, charged in the death of an Illinois woman, is set to return to court on August 11, 2020. During a hearing July 28 in New Madrid County Circuit Court, James Andrew Merritt, 32, entered a plea of not guilty to charges of first degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence. At his attorney’s request, a motion for bond reduction will be heard at 10:30 a.m. on August 11, 2020. On July 23, Merritt waived the right to a preliminary hearing in New Madrid County Associate Court and was ordered bound over to Circuit Court. Merritt is charged in connection with the death of Haley Decker, 18, of Normal, Ill. Decker was reported missing March 4. On March 26 her body was discovered in a suitcase in the Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge in rural Pulaski County, Illinois. The woman died after being struck on the head multiple times by a blunt object, authorities said. Officials believe the woman was last seen in the Morehouse and Sikeston area on January 25, 2020. During an interview with law enforcement officers, Merritt admitted meeting Decker online and bringing her to Southeast Missouri. Initially Merritt was arrested April 16 and charged with trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. A warrant was issued April 16 to search Merritt’s home. During the search Hamlett said in the probable cause statement that visible staining; consistent with blood staining was noted on a wall in the hallway of Merritt’s home. In addition, Officials say officers were able to use cellular records from both Decker and Merritt’s phones to determine the phones were at the same location on the morning and afternoon of January 25, 2020. Also authorities reported they were able to determine from cell phone data that Merritt’s phone was in the area where Decker’s remains were found.

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